Journey to the South: Eighteen of Thirty

Posted: February 19, 2013 in Fiction
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     The journey to the fort, while the distance was not great, turned out to be one of the longest rides of my life. I briefly informed Viro of what was happening before I bid the priests of Tule fair travels and climbed into the carriage with Cuahuatec. The Gromothim was deathly silent as the carriage pulled away from the inn, following behind the turma of Decurio Atam, his goggled eyes on the floor of the carriage. A long, quiet moment passed before I spoke.

    “Cuahuatec, I must know: is there any truth to that man’s allegation?”

    The Gromothim slave opened his mouth to speak, seemed to choke on his words, then shook his head violently.

    “Then why would he accuse you of murdering his child?”

    “I…I do not know, sir,” Cuahuatec rasped out. “I went to the market as you asked. It took me a short while to find a vendor selling pomegranates. I bought them. I brought them back to you.” He raised his head and leveled his gaze at me. “I swear upon Enochicali’s Beneficence. I swear it, sir!”

    I gently laid a hand on the slave’s furry shoulder. “I believe you, Cuahuatec. And obviously Decurio Atam is skeptical of this accusation, as well. We shall speak on your behalf before the Legatus. Hopefully the matter will go no further.”

    Silence descended once again upon the carriage, broken only by the continued wailing and shouts of the crowd following behind us. The fort itself was an imposing structure, the outer walls constructed of large blocks of granite at a slight slope, painted with whitewash that was blessed by priests of Krinai to burn the skin of any attacker who touched them. Being that there was no imminent threat, the gates of the fort – forged from steel by the Priesthood of Tule – stood open as we entered, hearing the hails of the guards to Decurio Atam’s turma of legionaries. The interior of the fort was laid out like any legionary camp and the turma led us past barracks, armories, and one small temple to the Kritanoi before bringing us to a halt in front of the building that served as the quarters and offices of the fort’s Legatus.

    The turma surrounded our carriage as the crowd with the victim’s father approached, and Atam himself escorted Cuahuatec and I from the carriage into the building. Within, Atam conferred with one of the Tribunii who served as the Legatus’ aide and informed the officer of the situation regarding the Gromothim and the bellicose crowd outside. The Tribunus frowned and excused himself into the inner offices of the Legatus, before returning a moment later with another man beside him.

    Legatus Saffrit Minjohn Ovrai was a tall man, taller than most, his flame-bright hair shorn close to his scalp in the legion fashion, with a face that was stern and rocky.
“I am too busy to deal with matters of criminality today, Decurio,” Ovrai said as soon as he laid eyes upon Atam, his pronunciation of the man’s rank dripping with derision. “Hold the accused in one of the cells and return tomorrow. I will deal with the matter then.”

    I cleared my throat and the Decurio gestured to me as he spoke. “May I introduce Tamojahneeli Gharan Udo, Chief Ambassador to the Sirraşi Kingdom. It is his slave who stands accused of this heinous crime, sir.”

    Ovrai looked from Atam, to me, to Cuahuatec – who stood a step behind me to my left, apparently wanting to disappear completely behind me, but having at least enough courage to maintain visibility before the Legatus. Ovrai sighed heavily. “Fine,” he huffed, before turning his attention to his aide. “Post-pone my meeting with the Tribunii and the inspection of the armories until later in the afternoon. I shall deal with this matter now.”

    He turned his gaze upon Atam. “Where is the accuser?”

    “Outside, sir.”

    Legatus Ovrai frowned slightly. “Have your men bring him in to my office. I will hear his side of the story and then interview the accused.”

    I felt Cuahuatec tremble next to me, and I laid a hand upon the Gromothim’s shoulder. “All shall be well, Cuahuatec. Have faith.”

    We stood to the side within the outer office of the Legatus as the legionaries escorted the father of the murdered child in, the body of his daughter no longer in his arms, though her blood still stained his robes. As he passed through the room, his eyes fell upon myself and Cuahuatec, and he raged at the Gromothim.

    “You! I will see that you suffer for your crime! I will see you tortured for eternity by Kiga’shm in her darkened halls! You will pay! You will pay!” The legionaries had to drag the man screaming into Ovrai’s inner offices. I felt Cuahuatec shake fearfully next to me, and reflecting back upon that day, I cannot help but think that the man’s outburst then was what drove the Gromothim slave to do what he did.

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